Monday, 18 February 2013

When the old deities are really buried

This is a once in a twelve year ritual. The old deities are ceremoniously buried and the new ones installed in this mammoth temple. The whole ritual is elaborate and highly secret that only a handful of people are aware of it and only a miniscule among them permitted to witness or participate.
All the deities are made of  wood. They are so heavy that they need several people to lift them. The main deity is also made of wood and this is so heavy that more than a few men have to strain themselves to hold each of  two hands: Some must push from behind and some pull from the front and even then the idol barely deigns to move.
Since the deities are made from wood,  they are replaced once in twelve years. This ritual is called Nava kalevara yatra or ritual of transformation. Once the twelfth year nears, elaborate preliminary preparations are made to search out for the right tree.
The tree that is selected for the deities must be special. First of all the symbolic marks of chakra, conch shell, mace and lotus have to be found on the bark of the tree.
An exclusive search party consists of  the exact numbers of men belonging to specific families and castes is set up. The party reaches a village which is 80 kilometres away from the temple which houses these deities.
When this party locates the special tree, they find the sacred symbols on only one of the many trees around. They all reside in a hut constructed near the tree. They then chew the leaves of the tree that has been selected to prepare the deities.
This is the Neem tree and they then prepare for a yagna or fire sacrifice where all the Gods and demi gods are invited to give their blessings before the tree is formally cut and then deities sculpted.
Then the cutting of the tree begins. First the golden axe is taken and a cut made on the tree This is followed by a cut form the silver axe and then comes the iron axe which finishes the axing. All the while, the names of the Lord will be chanted continuously, he has 108 names and each one of them will be chanted.
Once completed, the deity is called Daru which means Neem. The deity here is Jagganatha of Puri and he is, therefore, called Daru Brahamana.
Apart from Jagannatha, the other deities are of Subhadra, Balarama and Sudarshan. All these deities are sculpted in the village of Kakatpur, which is 80 kms from Puri.
Only the members of the Dayitapati family are allowed to perform this secret ritual and the oldest members of the family sleeps in the temple of Goddess Vimala or Mangala, It is he who has the dream about the perfect tree to cut down.
Once the log is cut, only members of the Dayitapadi family bring it back to Puri. It is here that the descendent of the original sculptor will commence  carving.            
Once the new deities are carved, the transformation ceremony commences. Here too, only a few precisely designated “servants: of Jagganatha can participate in the rites of transformation.
The old deities are placed in front of the new and three oldest members of Dayitapati family transfer “Daru Brahman” to the new Deities.
Even the head priest is not permitted to be present during this highly secret ceremony. But the Nava kalevara yatra is actually supposed to be a very intense experience as the three members blindfolded transfer  “life force.”
The old deities are buried in a place known as Koili Vaikuntha. Koili means burial ground and Vaikuntha of course is the abode of Vishnu.The last time this was done was in 2008.
Though millions thronged the temple and its premises, less than a few dozens, priests and servants of the temple, were present. The entire ceremony was shrouded in secrecy.
Once the new deities are installed, then all other rituals are the same as has been done every day.

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